Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

September 2014 Archives

U.S. Supreme Court Delays Early Voting in Ohio

A divided U.S. Supreme Court has blocked early voting from beginning today in Ohio, with opponents worried that minority voters will be the ones to suffer.

In a 5-4 decision, the High Court granted Ohio's request to stay an earlier ruling by a lower federal court which is pending appeal, reports USA Today. Grants to stay lower rulings from the Supreme Court don't typically have much detail, but this one-page ruling did indicate that four of the nine justices opposed it.

What are the effects of this early voting stay?

Wyoming's Gray Wolves Placed Back Under Federal Protection

A federal judge has reinstated federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming but stopped short of declaring them once again endangered or threatened.

The ruling marks the latest twist in an extended legal battle between the state of Wyoming and federal authorities regarding the wolves, reports USA Today. In 2012, the wolves were delisted from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and control over maintaining the wolves' population was transferred to individual states, including Wyoming.

Tuesday's ruling, however, places the wolves in Wyoming back under the protection of the federal government.

La.'s Gay Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional, State Judge Rules

A Louisiana judge has found the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, but the ruling may be limited to this particular case.

Judge Edward Rubin of Louisiana's 15th Judicial District Court struck down the same-sex marriage ban in a case involving a lesbian couple and their young child. Lafayette's KATC-TV reports that Angela Marie Costanza and Chasity Shanelle Brewer were legally married in California, but they were having issues getting Costanza recognized as a second parent (Brewer was the biological parent).

This Louisiana ruling granted both parents the rights they sought, and it may mean hastening legal gay marriage in Louisiana.

Guardian Can Remove Life Support Without Court Review in Minn.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld a lower court decision allowing appointed professional guardians to remove patients from life support without a court review.

The case involved Jeffrey Tschumy -- a man incapacitated from diabetes, the effects of a stroke, and partial paralysis from a spinal infection -- who choked on his food and suffered what was determined to be irreversible brain damage, reports Minnesota Public Radio. The man had no family and the professional guardian who'd been appointed nearly three years earlier to make the man's medical decisions asked the hospital to remove him from life support.

The hospital's ethics panel and a district court said that guardians didn't have that decision-making power. But the Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed.

Texas Upskirt Photo Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out a portion of a Texas criminal statute that prohibited taking unauthorized pictures in public for the purposes of sexual gratification after finding that the law violated First Amendment free speech rights.

The state's highest criminal court upheld a lower court decision on Wednesday overturning the law 8-1, reports the Houston Chronicle. Under the law, taking surreptitious photos of a person in a public place, such as upskirt photos of women, was considered a state jail felony. The law was challenged by Ronald Thompson, who was charged under the law in 2011 after taking pictures of clothed children at a San Antonio waterpark.

What was the court's rationale for overturning the law?

Tesla Gets Green Light From Court to Sell Cars in Mass.

Electric car maker Tesla has gotten the go-ahead from Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled Monday that a state law couldn't be used to stop Tesla from selling cars.

The Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association had tried to bar Tesla from selling its premium electric cars at an upscale mall in Natick, under a law that prevents manufacturers from owning and operating dealerships. But the high court disagreed.

The Boston Globe reports that Tesla is facing similar restrictive laws in Texas, Arizona, and Maryland. So how did Tesla manage to win in Massachusetts?

Snapchat OKs Settlement With Ousted Co-Founder

In a statement suspiciously timed to coincide with the media coverage of Apple's new product launch, Snapchat quietly announced Tuesday that it's settled a lawsuit filed against the company by one of its founders.

Although the terms of the settlement weren't disclosed, Snapchat was recently valued at $10 billion following a round of venture capital fundraising, reports Forbes, making it likely that the settlement of the lawsuit by ousted co-founder Reggie Brown didn't come cheap.

What was Brown's beef with his former Stanford frat brothers and company co-founders Even Spiegel and Bobby Murphy?

Neb. Indoor Smoking Ban's Exemptions Ruled Unconstitutional

Nebraska's indoor smoking ban remains intact, but the exemptions for smokers to puff inside cigar bars and tobacco stores has been ruled unconstitutional.

In its decision, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that there was no substantial difference between a cigar bar and other publicly accessible workplaces, and that special exemptions for these businesses are "directly contrary" to the state's indoor smoking ban. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the state's attorney general asked the high court on Monday to rehear the case, which may have dire effect on all future legislation.

What did the Nebraska Supreme Court dislike about the smoking ban's exemptions?

'Grossly Negligent' BP to Owe Billions for Gulf Oil Spill: Judge

A federal judge ruled Thursday that BP was grossly negligent in causing the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and now the company has to pay.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier found that BP acted with "gross negligence" in the oil spill that killed 11 rig workers and caused billions of dollars in damage to Gulf businesses. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the precise dollar amount owed by BP as a result of this ruling isn't clear yet, but The Associated Press estimates the damage at $17.6 billion.

How does this new case relate to BP's past and future court woes?

Wash. Judge Rules for No-Pot City, Blocks MJ Shops

A Washington state judge has ruled that a suburb of Tacoma can prohibit marijuana retail operations despite the new state law legalizing the practice.

The ruling came in a case brought by a resident of the town of Fife who wished to open a pot shop there but was blocked by city authorities, reports The Associated Press.

What was the basis of the ruling and what does it mean for the future of Washington's still-fresh foray into legalized marijuana sales?